Systematically Deriving the Enabling Knowledge/Skills From the Performance Model Data

Identifying enabling, performance-based knowledge and skills is critical to the design and development of high-impact T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management. The systematic PACT knowledge/skill analysis effort follows immediately after the performance modeling effort.

The goal of knowledge/skill analysis is to derive systematically the enabling knowledge/skill (K/S) items and document them on Knowledge/Skill Matrices. The items documented are the enablers that lead to the ideal, high-performance state. These are knowledge/skill items that are not just thought to be needed, but known to be needed. The Knowledge/Skill Matrices link each knowledge/skill item to the performance that it enables (as described in the Performance Model). Thus, the Performance Model ensures that the discrete knowledge/skill enablers in the Knowledge/Skill Matrices are performance relevant. And, in turn, the performance orientation is passed on to the design work products for which the Knowledge/Skill Matrix is an input.

To develop a Knowledge/Skill Matrix, knowledge/skill items are identified and listed on a matrix chart. The process uses a list of predefined knowledge/skill categories, covered later in this chapter. Additional data points are gathered for each knowledge/skill item on the matrix; these are captured in the columns on the right-hand side of the matrix.

The data in the columns of the Knowledge/Skill Matrix is captured live by the facilitator during the same two- or three-day meeting in which the Performance Model is built. The Knowledge/ Skill Matrix in the next diagram…

A list (typically customized for a project) of predefined knowledge/skill categories allows the analyst to control the brainstorming session. By structuring the brainstorming effort in this way, the analyst can keep individual knowledge/skill items closely linked to performance as described in the Performance Model.

The Knowledge/Skill Matrix lists knowledge/skill items that enable performance. Each knowledge/skill item listed on the left of the Knowledge/Skill Matrix is linked back to a specific Area of Performance on a Performance Model. See the Link to Area of Performance section of the first diagram above.

The columns on the right side of the Knowledge/Skill Matrix give a richer insight into the enabling knowledge/skill items. It’s more important to know the following about each enabling K/S than just it’s label.

The select/train column differentiates those items that are attended to (if indeed they are) by the selection process, not the training process. If the knowledge/skill item is supposed to be taken into account during the candidate selection process, the item should not be an issue for the T&D system. (It won’t be an issue if the selection system really screens for these enablers. However, if some people get the job without having the required enabler, there is a residual T&D implication to deal with.) The analyst marks training items with a “T” and selection items with an “S.”

The criticality column gives an assessment of the importance of the knowledge/skill item. Critical items should definitely be included in high-priority T&D Modules and Events, as prioritized in the last phase of the Curriculum Architecture Design effort, or should receive extra emphasis in Modular Curriculum Development and Instructional Activity Development projects. The analyst marks each item as H, M, or L (high, medium, or low criticality) as the Analysis Team dictates.

The difficulty column indicates how hard the Analysis Team assesses it will be for the target audience to grasp the awareness, knowledge, or skill related to this knowledge/skill item. The analyst marks each item H, M, or L.

The volatility column is an assessment of the amount of maintenance required by the content covering the knowledge/skill item. Volatility impacts packaging and deployment/distribution strategies. For example, an ISD professional might not want to put a volatile piece of content on CD-ROM and have to update it quarterly unless the distribution savings are so great that it would still be a good business decision to do so. Also, later in the design process, it’s a good idea to avoid placing volatile and nonvolatile content in the same T&D Module; separating the two types of content reduces life-cycle maintenance costs for T&D products. The analyst marks this column H, M, or L.

The final column, depth, indicates the depth of coverage needed for the eventual/potential training to cover the knowledge/skill item sufficiently for the learners to know how to apply it to performance. The analyst and team may decide that the appropriate depth is at the awareness level (A), the knowledge level (K), or the skill level (S).

As mentioned, the Knowledge/Skill Matrix lists knowledge/skill items and links them back to the Performance Model. Usually this linkage is made at the Area of Performance level, but it could be at the output or task level. (Outputs and tasks are listed for each Area of Performance in a Performance Model.) Some of our clients found it useful to link each knowledge/skill item to the role for each task. We usually link to the Area of Performance and will use the Design Team members’ knowledge of the more detailed linkages during the design process to accomplish what this more detailed effort would have accomplished earlier.

In PACT, we like to defer the details until just when they are needed. The increased cycle time required to link at a lower level may add a day or two (depending on the amount of data generated during the analysis process). And that smells like analysis paralysis!

While many knowledge/skill items can be placed in multiple knowledge/skill categories, it’s preferable to put an item into the best category one time and one time only; this requires some arbitrary decision-making and consistent logic so that similar data falls into the same category. This is important for the reviewers’ sanity and also for the ease and integrity of the later design work.

To accomplish the knowledge/skill analysis, the analyst and the Analysis Team perform six tasks.

First, the Analysis Team reviews the knowledge/skill category list and modifies it if necessary. The team needs to understand the definitions of each category and how to deal with the inevitable overlaps between categories.

Second, taking a single knowledge/skill category at a time, the Analysis Team reviews each Area of Performance from the Performance Model. All enabling knowledge/skill items that the Analysis Team can think of are listed. This is highly structured brainstorming. The knowledge/skill categories are used to focus on types of knowledge/skills, and the Performance Model charts are used to focus and stimulate the thinking of the team.

Third, the team links each knowledge/skill item to all appropriate Areas of Performance.

Fourth, after each knowledge/skill category has been addressed, the analyst returns to the first Knowledge/Skill Matrix and completes all of the remaining columns in the order below.
• Starting with the select/train column, each knowledge/skill item is evaluated to determine if an employee will be screened out if he or she does not possess the knowledge/skill (S) in the selection process, or if training will need to be provided (T). (Note that the selection process must absolutely screen, for if it doesn’t, you’ll eventually confront a T&D issue. If you’re not sure, it gets a “T”.)
• Then the criticality to performance is rated high, medium, or low.
• The difficulty to learn is rated high, medium, or low.
• The volatility of content of the knowledge/skill item is rated high, medium, or low.
• The level of depth that any T&D should go to is defined as awareness, knowledge, or skill.

Fifth, the Analysis Team is debriefed and the meeting is assessed and closed.

Last, the analyst/facilitator packs up all of the data captured on the flip charts to take back to the ISD ranch, or wherever ISD folks go when the meeting dust settles.

The Knowledge/Skill Matrix and Performance Model are crucial to the PACT Processes because of the way they confer a performance orientation onto subsequent ISD work products. The Knowledge/Skill Matrix and the Performance Model are developed during an Analysis Team meeting led (usually) by the analyst.

In PACT, design efforts are where the actual analysis data is massaged into the design – via the facilitated process the designer uses with the Design Team. Every data point ends up in the design – or everyone involved knows “why not.”

In the CAD level of design the data ends up in Module Specs – unless the enablers are already covered in Existing T&D that has been assessed as reusable AI: as is – or – AM: after modification. Those Modules are rolled up into Event Specs. And the Event Specs are placed on a T&D Path (a Learning Continuum or Learning Path or Menu).

In MCD and IAD levels of design in PACT the data ends up in Instructional Activity Specs that roll up to Lesson Maps (the reconfiguring of the Module Specs of a CAD if a CAD effort proceeded MCD/IAD) which themselves are part of an Event Map.

All of this is covered in many articles and presentations available at and in my book: lean-ISD available as a free 404-page PDF at the same site.

The PACT Processes for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management are”lean” in that data is captured and used in facilitated processes – assuring that it is Performance-based, Accelerated, Customer/Stakeholder-driven Training & Development, Learning, and/or Knowledge Management type ISD products. Intended to impact performance and reduce cycle times and costs.

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